Tech giant HP rips into companies over hacking problems

Adobe, Yahoo Mail and PlayStation users have all had their passwords and personal information hacked in large-scale security breaches in recent years. Now tech giant HP is calling for companies to “eliminate opportunities” given to attackers to access information.

These large-scale hacks have put millions of users’ personal details at risk with the Adobe hack alone exposing 38m accounts to abuse. In its annual cyber risk report, HP criticised sharing of intelligence within the industry.

The company said that the technology industry should pull together to share intelligence about security and the tactics they should use in order to disrupt malicious activities.

It looked at more than 500,000 applications for Android and found that mobile developers often fail to use encryption when storing sensitive data on mobile devices, rely on weak algorithms to do so or misuse stronger encryption capabilities which render them ineffective. Its report states that 56% of applications tested showed weaknesses that revealed information about the application, its implementation or its users.

The report will be worrying for consumers as it highlights the vulnerability of many apps and how their personal data can be accessed by those with the knowledge to do so. With smartphone users checking their mobiles up to 150 times and a total use time of more than two hours each day it amount of information we are giving to companies is increasing.

Many applications are given access to our payment details, contacts, address and more. For consumers there is a need for our personal data to be safely stored by the brands we trust.

For the developers and companies running the applications there may be more costly consequences for failing to securely protect our private information. This was shown last year as Sony were fined £250,000 for security failures after gamers’ details were leaked online in 2011. For smaller companies this scale of monetary penalty could have a serious impact on their business.

To help combat the threat of attackers being able to access users’ personal data,  HP recommends combining the right staff members, processes and technology to minimise the vulnerabilities and reduce the overall risk.

HP said: “Organisations and developers alike must stay cognizant of security pitfalls in frameworks and other third-party code, particularly for hybrid mobile development platforms. Robust security guidelines must be enacted to protect the integrity of applications and the privacy of users.”

Image courtesy of Gustavo Molina.

Amazon knows what you’re going to order

The internet has changed the way we buy things forever, but if Amazon has anything to do with it this is just the beginning. The megaretailer has filed a patent for something its calling “anticipatory shipping”; an algorithm-based technology that starts shipping you goods before you’ve even ordered them.

This might sound like something out of Minority Report, but Amazon’s vast collection of user data enables it to predict consumer demand with a fair level of accuracy. By combining information such as your wish list, previous orders or shopping basket contents with creepier data such as how long your cursor hovers over certain items, the company could anticipate what you want before you even click ‘buy’.

This could involve shipping certain popular products to specific areas before leaving them at nearby depots or on delivery trucks until a customer decides to buy. By then, the product would have already made most of the journey so wouldn’t have far to go to complete its journey.

In theory, this technology could be great for shoppers; imagine if while browsing you saw that the latest box set or headphones you wanted were in your area and available for delivery within hours. But it could go horribly wrong – if the algorithm’s predictions are off Amazon could wind up with a stack of products in the wrong part of its delivery chain and would be forced to discount or gift them to shift the excess.

Equally, companies need to be very careful about using prediction technologies on consumers. This approach can be really exciting to use, with the most successful example being Google Now, which can predict your behavior based on past activities with a surprising level of accuracy.

But if a company’s practices creep you out you’re far less likely to want to use it, even if it’s offering you attractive delivery options on a product you want. It’s all about making the service feel helpful without being invasive, and we’re betting this is something Amazon is pretty good at.

This patent is the latest plan by Amazon to eliminate the last barrier to total retail domination: shipping times. While online retailers have lured a lot of us away from physical shops thanks to factors such as price, the benefit of having an item as soon as you purchase it is the one advantage physical shops have over online stores.

But it seems like Amazon is hell-bent on changing this, with same-day deliveries already implemented in many areas and plans for drone deliveries underway. The company hasn’t said how much time it thinks anticipatory shipping will save, but rest assured if it can shave time off the delivery, it will.

We’re not convinced about anticipatory shipping being the complete solution, but sooner or later a technology will arrive that gives online orders near-instantaneous shipping times, and when that happens online retail’s domination will be complete.

Image courtesy of Luke Dorny.